WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- According to a recently unearthed interview recorded hours before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, former United States President Bill Clinton claimed he passed on the chance to kill Osama bin Laden.
Speaking to an audience in Melbourne, Australia, Clinton, less than a year out of office at the time, says he could have killed bin Laden during his presidency, but he would have had to decide to kill 300 innocent civilians by his estimation.
"I'm just saying, you know, if I were Osama bin Laden -- he's a very smart guy, I've spent a lot of time thinking about him -- and I nearly got him once," Clinton can be heard saying.
Clinton then explains to the pre-9/11 audience that the reason he didn't kill bin Laden was because he did not want to destroy the "little town" of Kandahar, still mostly unknown at the time.
"I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I just didn't do it."
Less than 12 hours later, 19 men hijacked four fully fueled commercial airplanes kicking off the largest terrorist attack in American history. A Boeing 767 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, another plane hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a third crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa. after it is believed passengers thwarted their hijackers.
There were 2,977 confirmed fatalities.